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April 13, 2021

Giri hits top gear to win Magnus Carlsen Invitational

3 min read

Anish Giri catapulted himself up the Meltwater Champions Chess leaderboard with a dramatic win in the Magnus Carlsen Invitational.

The Dutch No.1 found his killer instinct to overpower Russian champion Ian Nepomniachtchi in an intensely-tight final that went to tiebreaks.

It was 26-year-old Giri’s first tournament victory in the $1.5 million Tour organised by Play Magnus Group. He takes home the top prize of $60,000 and a ticket to the final in September.

The match finally exploded after five consecutive draws – four in set 1 yesterday and the opening game in the decider.

Game 1 saw Giri launch a fearsome attack on Nepomniachtchi but the Russian weathered the storm to steer towards a fifth peaceful resolution by repetition.

It looked like something special was needed to separate the pair – and that’s exactly what happened in Game 2.

Giri is a player who has in the past been unfairly maligned for racking up too many draws. But in this event, the Dutchman played with a new-found speed and confidence.

Giri was relentless as he piled on the pressure and eventually forced Nepomniachtchi to resign. Finally, a decisive game.

With the two-day final resting on this final set, it left the Dutchman just one win away from taking the title while Nepo needed a win.

Yet the third followed the previous pattern of draws – an exciting game, but neither player able to get a breakthrough. Nepomniachtchi had just one shot to level the score and take the final to tiebreaks.

Only needing his alleged specialty – the draw – to seal the match, something happened to Giri. The Dutchman gave his opponent exactly what he needed – a series of small mistakes.

Nepomniachtchi turned the screw and breached Giri’s defences. Giri, so close to tournament victory, was forced to resign and the set finished 2-2. That meant tiebreaks to decide the tournament.

It got worse for Giri as what seemed like a moment of madness in the first blitz tiebreaker saw him give up a knight for a pawn – and little else.

But Nepomniachtchi lost his cool and inexplicably blundered for the first time in the match. The Russian gave a rueful smile as Giri won the first blitz game, a real rollercoaster.

After getting out of jail, Giri also got himself back on track as he refocused to dominate the second blitz game. Giri, a player so often the bridesmaid but rarely the bride, had taken the Magnus Carlsen Invitational title.

Both Giri and Nepomniachtchi, wearing his lucky Mickey Mouse throughout, were in red-hot form and playing the best chess of their lives during this event.

Meanwhile, in the third-place play-off, World Champion Magnus Carlsen brushed off the challenge of Wesley So – who had beaten him in two finals previously this season – to pick up the valuable Tour points.

Having won the first set yesterday, Carlsen took the opening game of the second and then followed it up with two draws to make a comeback for So impossible.

Carlsen said: “Third is better than fourth. It’s good to get one over Wesley, that’s for sure. Clearly, he was not 100 per cent motivated, and not in his best shape. It’s a lot better than to have lost the last match.”

The Norwegian added: “I think overall I played much better in this tournament than in the last one, so it’s a small step forwards, though I would have loved not to have my worst two days in the semis.”

The Meltwater Champions Chess Tour returns on April 24 with leg five of 10.

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